An acceptable level of violence’: Community responses to crime in Northern Ireland and South Africa

Colin Knox, Rachel Monaghan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


South Africa and, more tentatively, Northern Ireland are emerging from bitter ethno-national conflicts in which violence and crime characterized the transition to peaceful political settlements. The collapse of apartheid in 1989, lifting the 30-year ban on the African National Congress (ANC) and the subsequent release of Nelson Mandela, created a climate for political negotiation and change in South Africa. This paved the way for an interim constitution, the first multi-racial democratic elections in 1994 and led to the Government of National Unity.� The ANC�s success in the most recent elections (June 1999) gave the party an overwhelming mandate to accelerate Thabo Mbeki�s program of �transformation� aimed at tackling the significant socio-economic problems facing South Africa: unemployment, AIDS, crime and education. The legacy of political resistance, often violent, deployed to make the townships ungovernable during apartheid has created a culture tolerant of citizens taking the law into their own hands. Although the number of political killings (killings arising out of the conflict between different political factions) dropped sharply from about 2,500 in 1994 to fewer than 500 in 1997, 1 Mbeki in his inauguration speech in Pretoria (16 June 1999) regretted that some South Africans were �forced to beg, rob and murder to ensure that they and their own do not perish from hunger.� 2 � The savagery of the crime wave is however captured in reports that one in every two South African women will be raped during their lifetime, the average South African is eight times more likely to be murdered than the average American, and one policeman is killed each day - 1,400 have died since the ANC came to power. 3� The public response is that �brutality should be met with brutality. The rich surround themselves with razor wire and private security guards, and the poor resort to vigilantism
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28-49
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Conflict Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2001
Externally publishedYes


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